Schoolchildren ‘could be sent home early’ if Covid staff absences rise

·3-min read
Schools and Covid - izusek/E+
Schools and Covid - izusek/E+

Schools have warned parents that children could be sent home before the summer holidays because of Covid-related staff absences.

Parents of pupils at Waingels College, a comprehensive secondary school in Woodley, Berkshire, were alerted over the weekend that if staff cases continue to rise over the coming days, then year groups would be sent home on a daily rotation basis.

Separately, a parent of a pupil at Furze Down School, a school for children with special educational needs in Winslow, Buckinghamshire, told The Telegraph that two classes had already been moved to remote learning and the school had warned that further pupils could be sent home owing to Covid-related staff absences.

Arabella Skinner, of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “Our parents are increasingly concerned about the messages they are receiving from schools about restrictions such as limiting parental access, splitting classes and – at the most extreme – staff absences, potentially forcing year groups to be sent home.”

A parent of a pupil at Furze Down School, said: “There is an argument for being cautious when looking after vulnerable children, but when is it going to end? Aren’t we living with Covid now?

Waingels College in Berkshire - Hufton+Crow-ViewAlamy Stock Photo
Waingels College in Berkshire - Hufton+Crow-ViewAlamy Stock Photo

The number of people in the UK with Covid has risen sharply to almost 2.3 million, according to official figures published last week.

Tom Bartlett, the principal of Waingels College, said that the school had been experiencing “much higher than usual rates of staff absence and a significant number of absent staff have reported Covid-like symptoms”.

He said that the school had emailed parents to raise awareness of the issue, but so far has managed to cover all absent staff.

Teaching unions said that they supported teachers with Covid taking time off work. Dr Patrick Roach, the general secretary of NASUWT, said: “With rising case numbers once again, Covid transmission continues to be an issue in schools and we are aware that many teachers have now had Covid multiple times following the Government’s decision to remove Covid safety guidance and access to free tests.

“It is vitally important that where a member of staff or a pupil contracts Covid that they follow NHS guidance to stay at home for at least five days in order to protect others.”

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, has urged the Government to invest more in ventilation in schools to help prevent further disruption from Covid absences in the autumn term.

Schools urged to stay open

A government spokesman said: “The best place for a child to learn is in the classroom with inspirational teachers, which is why keeping schools open for face-to-face learning – as 99.9 per cent of schools have been this term – remains an absolute priority.

“Supply teachers and other temporary staff perform a vital role and make an important contribution to the smooth running of schools by filling posts on a temporary basis and covering teacher absences.”

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